Despite its grandiose title the Great North of Scotland Raiway was the smallest of the “constituent” companies amalgamated to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway and the London & North Eastern Railway, in 1923. With the North British, it fell to the latter group, although it was one of the many minor anomalies thrown up by the great amalgamation, that it was not directly connected to the rest the LNER, and could only be reached by the exercise of running powers over the LMS.
Beset from its earliest days by financial problems, although it obtained an Act of Parliament to build a line from Aberdeen to Inverness, it was 1854 before it was able to open its first section, from Kittybrewster, just north of Aberdeen, to Huntly, only about half way to Inverness, in September 1854. In the meantime, other railways had been proposed and built south from Inverness, and by 1858, through carriages were conveying passengers between Aberdeen and Inverness. By the middle of the following decade, the mileage of railway operated by GNOS trains had quadrupled, but much of it was by exercise of running powers over other company’s lines, or over leased lines. A substantial minority of shareholders were dissatisfied by this situation, where receipts from trains worked by the GNOS. flowed into the coffers of other companies and benefited their shareholders. There were rows at Annual Meetings, controversy in the newspapers, and pamphlets published like this scarce example from 1862 The situation was simplified by the provisions of the Great North of Scotland (Amalgamation) Act 1866, which swept a number of smaller undertakings into the GNOS net.
Unfortunately, the collapse of the Overend Gurney Bank the same year resulted in interest rates of 10% for several months and chaos in the financial markets, particularly affecting railways, A number barely evaded receivership, some did not- and some which had begun construction, were destined never to be completed.
For the Great North of Scotland, it was the beginning of over a decade of “austerity”. Only half a mile of new line was built, no dividend could be paid until 1874, and no new locomotives built until 1876.
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